What's a theme park without any rides?
A video game theme park. That's what Nintendo Land is. Instead of roller coasters and excitement, it's mini-games and, oh god, mini-games. Are you sure you don't want me to write about another first-person shooter? I'd rather play one of those than more mini-games on a Nintendo platform.
Of course, this isn't just any Nintendo platform, it's the Wii U… The U makes it different. Consequently, instead of a motion sports game, Nintendo is creating a collection of mini-games inspired by all of their smash hits.
Smash hits you say? Yes! Games like The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong, Animal Crossing, Luigi's Mansion, and Takemaru! Takemaru? Who the hell is Takemaru? Apparently a ninja guy who throws stars at other ninja guys. This shooting gallery was easily the worst of all the demos Nintendo made available in their E3 booth.
The best was definitely the Animal Crossing-inspired Sweet Day, a game that gave four players control of AC denizens looking to collect 50 candies. With each candy, they grew bigger and slower. A fifth player with a Wii U pad in hand controlled two candy guards. These two were mapped to the analog sticks on the pad.
The ZL and ZR buttons allowed the guards to dive at the other players. Catching three of them meant a win for the Wii U pad player. This four-against-one scenario was mimicked in Luigi's Ghost Mansion, where one player used the Wii U pad to control a ghost and the other four used Wii-motes to hunt with flashlights.
I definitely had more fun with Sweet Day, with that game being the faster, more colorful of the two. Still, playing anything other than the Wii U pad was boring and rather skippable, a natural consequence of the asymmetric gameplay Nintendo is packing Nintendo Land with.
The Legend of Zelda Battle Quest, though, managed to be more entertaining with the Wii-motes. Three players can head out on an on-rails adventure through an overworld and dungeon-inspired landscape, complete with lots of baddies. The Wii U pad armed players with an archer, while the Wii-motes were equipped with sword and shield.
Rounding out the batch of mini-games on hand was Donkey Kong's Crash Course, a motion-controlled platformer that based points on speed. Blazing through a level typically meant dying a horribly destructive death. Accuracy made for the best policy, but Crash Course's diminutive design belies a great depth.
While I can't see Nintendo Land topping sales charts as anything other than a pack-in, whether with a controller or a console, the promise of 12 different games is enticing enough.
Each game has varying levels of depth and length, with Zelda's Battle Quest promising several levels alone. Nintendo showed off an F-Zero inspired game and more items in the Nintendo Land overworld suggested Metroid and Star Fox inspired mini-games as well. We'll know more as the Wii U and Nintendo Land approach release.